Sunday, November 20, 2011

Xavier's Big Arrival


I have three amazing friends who are very close (and very, very close in one case) to being due. I wanted to share Xavier's birth story because it was really great, and for whatever reason people love to tell you birth horror stories when you are pregnant. I can't believe it is not socially taboo to scare the shit out of mommies-to-be. I say we protest by sharing the positive...and kicking the people who tell us their negative stories (just kidding).

I will start out by saying that I never thought I would want to be a mom. After almost thirty years of being exposed to the "birth is horrible" culture in movies, TV shows, etc., I was terrified at the thought of having a baby. Needless to say when Pete was all but doing cartwheels around the room at the positive pregnancy test result, I felt nothing but fear. I was a week away from flying to northern Quebec to teach in a remote village without my husband when we found out I was pregnant, so my last week at home was spent scurrying around to find a midwife.

Although my entire life up to that point was spent dreading pregnancy and delivery, a funny thing happened at my first midwife appointment: I was empowered.

I told my midwife about my apprehension and she listened intently before encouraging me with positive stories about birth. She had a lot of great suggestions for me, and I left our appointment feeling so much lighter. In fact, once I came home from Quebec in December and had more regular midwife appointments, I always left feeling that I had everything under control. It was great.

I read two great books during my pregnancy, most of it in the last few weeks leading up to the birth. Everything I read just reiterated the fact that my body was made to have Xavier, and that Xavier and my body would work together when the time came. I rested as much as possible (oh how I miss naps!), and focused on saying a list of positive birth affirmations to myself before sleep, all of which helped me keep my cool on the big day.

Mind you even though the big day was officially April 2nd, I am pretty sure that little man tricked me on April 1st. At one point on April 1st, I was convinced my water broke. There was a pretty decent amount of water that suddenly came out. So I called my midwife to let her know and she came over to check things out. She told me that it didn't appear like anything was happening and that my water was definitely still intact. It is possible for you to leak water from the top of your placenta, apparently, so I chalked it up to that even though it was obviously Xavier playing an April Fool's prank on us.

So the the night of the 1st ended and at 1am I awoke to a contraction. It was just one contraction, and it was not very strong, but it was intense enough to get me out of bed to head out to the bathroom. I went back to bed only to be awoken again about an hour or so later for another contraction. This cycle repeated until the morning, so I didn't have the greatest sleep. If you are wondering what a contraction feels like, my mommy brain has made my memory fuzzy. However I remember it being an all over tight feeling. It did hurt, but I found that by breathing slowly and deeply while pressing out my belly as far as I could (as if I was trying to be as fat as possible), it was completely bearable.

Because Little Man was a week over due, that day we were scheduled to go to the hospital to have a non-stress test to make sure everything was okay. We went to breakfast with my aunt, who was going to be attending the birth, and I had a few more contractions that were intense enough for me to go hide out in the family bathroom doing some deep breathing. After that we went to the appointment at the hospital for the test. Pete and I were left alone in a room while I was hooked up to a machine that monitored little man for 15 minutes. It slowly printed out a paper report that looked like similar to the one that measures earthquakes, so at the end I asked the nurse if it registered any of the contractions I had had during the test. She crabbily told me that it was probably just Braxton-Hicks and then sent me on my way.

By the time we got home around 1pm, the contractions were about ten minutes apart instead of being one or two intermittently. My aunt started timing them and they went from ten minutes apart and a two out of ten to an hour's worth of contractions, one minute long, four minutes apart and six out of ten in intensity. Before I knew it we were calling my midwife to come assess me. The funny thing about that was that we had to call an answering service four times before we finally heard back from a midwife.

The first time Pete called and said I was having contractions. We didn't hear back so he called back twenty minutes later (as we were instructed to do), and when Pete explained that nobody had responded to us and that I was still having contractions, the dispatcher crabbily told him that he failed to mention that I was in active labour. Twenty minutes later we still hadn't heard from anyone so this time Pete was so frustrated he asked his mom to call, and she relayed to them the timing and intensity of my contractions and stated that I was in active labour. After another twenty minutes Pete's mom called again and busted out the mom voice: the midwife called us back in less than five minutes.

When the midwife came I was dilated to 8cm, but my water was still intact. She broke my water and then I finally got to hop into the pool that Pete, his mom and my aunt had been filling up for the last two hours; it was heavenly. I instantly relaxed and spent a little while talking to my cervix (yes, seriously). My midwife told me that it had to get to 10cm before I could start pushing, so I repeated over and over "my cervix is opening." It might sound silly, but once I started that it didn't take me very long to get to 10cm.

The most uncomfortable thing up to that point was when I was starting to get the urge to bear down, but was still waiting to dilate to 10cm. It was kind of like trying not to pee your pants when you are frantically trying to find a bathroom. When my midwife said I was ready to start pushing, I wanted to high five her. As for the pushing part, I began on my knees in the tub holding Pete's hands while he sat in from of me. From there I moved to laying on one side to push, then the other. Then my midwife had me bend my top knee and open my hips as wide as I could while I pushed on my side. I also layer on my back for a little bit (even though it makes you fight gravity, it was comforting when I started to get tired.)

I didn't have any clocks that I could see, so I really wasn't two aware of timing. I pushed for two hours, which sounds like an eternity, but it isn't. I know now that it would have gone faster if I had had more rest the night before and if I had really pushed my hardest from the get-go. At first when I started a contraction my midwife would say "get mad" to help me push hard, but I couldn't think of anything to get mad at. Pete tried to help me by reminding me of all the things he does to drive me crazy.

"Remember how you will go to use a towel after a shower and it is dry on the front side but wet on the other because it is all balled up at the back between the towel bar and the wall?"

Part of it was that I wasn't picturing anything in particular, but part of it was that it was that I didn't want to give it my all and use up all my energy. Mind you, it would have meant less time overall if I had. After a while I got better at focusing my pushes. I spent a lot of time talking Xavier along, telling him he was safe and that my body was doing everything perfectly. I also had a four hour long play list on my iPod with chilled out music to listen to that I sang along to in between contractions. When it came time to push again, my midwife would sometimes put her finger on a certain spot in my vagina and tell me to push in that spot, which was very helpful too. All in all, these things worked well together to get things moving along.

(On a side note, as Xavier got further along down the birth canal I was able to feel the top of his head inside me; what an amazing feeling!)

What was frustrating for me was that it seemed like I would push really hard and be telling myself that Xavier's head must be close to being out and then the pushing would be over and the midwife would cheerfully say "we saw the top of his head!" It felt like it was taking s while for his head to come out, and I was starting to get pretty tired. It was not unbearably painful, it just felt as though I was running in a marathon and I kept thinking I would get around the bend and see the finish line, but it wasn't there. It was more about energy than pain.

When I had been in the pool for about an hour and a half the midwives suggested I try getting out and sitting on the toilet, because Xavier's head was almost out but just caught on something (something is my word since I can't remember). They said that by sitting on the toilet it would change the angle that I was pushing at. I did a few contractions on the toilet facing the wall, which allowed me to open my hips as wide as possible. Then I did one or two contractions on the toilet facing the usual way while hugging a standing Pete as tightly as possible. At that point I felt as though I didn't have the energy to keep going, and told my midwife so. She suggested I try a birthing stool so that gravity could help me along.

As soon as I sat on the birthing stool, things started to move very quickly. I got a sudden burst of energy and knew it was time. As for the pain, I will say that it is a very localized sensation. My adrenaline carried me through, and I remember it being completely bearable. I was not screaming for drugs or anything dramatic; I was focused on using every last bit of energy to get Xavier out. So in the end my midwife was facing me while I sat on a birthing stool (a U-shaped stool) squeezing Pete's knees (very hard) as he sat on a rocking chair behind me. The only time I remember losing my cool was during a contraction on the birthing stool when I was ready to be done with pushing and yelled "Xavier get the fuck out of me!" (not quite mother of the year material). Finally Little Man's head came out and the midwife asked me if I wanted to reach down and guide him out. Even though I had been trying to be as hands on and hippyish as possible up to that point, I was exhausted so I looked at her incredulously and said "NO!" Ha ha.

Pete says that I was on the birthing stool for about ten to twenty minutes, but in my mind it was a minute or two and then Xavier came zooming out. I reached down and held Xavier in my arms, and everyone began chatting amongst themselves excitedly. The midwife clamped two spots on the cord and asked Pete to cut in between. He did, but I was completely out of it and said (very loudly) "did you cut on the right side of the clamp?" Apparently everyone (my aunt, mother-in-law and four midwives) stopped talking at turned to look at us. Poor Pete...

After that I got to feed little man and then hop in a hot bath (both of which made me blissfully happy). I had two tiny tears that were so small that the midwives did not have to put in a suture. I think that the way in which Xavier seemed to go back and forth as I pushed then rested helped my body get ready for him to come out, which I am thankful for. So to recap, first contraction to birth time was 20 hours. Actual active labour to Xavier's birth was about 5 hours and of that 2 hours was pushing. All of this was drug-free, with almost no interventions (other than having my water broken).

As someone with an extremely low tolerance for pain, it was completely bearable. You can do it ladies. Let your midwives worry about the medical stuff, you just focus on keeping your mind and body strong.

And maybe think of a long list of things you are mad at to focus your pushing energy on. Hopefully I am not on that list. :)

1 comment:

  1. Oops. I mentioned reading two books in my story but forgot to say what they were.

    The Birth Book (Dr. Sears)
    http://www.drsearsfamilyessentials.com/the-birth-book.html

    and

    The Complete Book of Pregnancy and Childbirth (Kitzinger)
    http://www.amazon.ca/Complete-Book-Pregnancy-Childbirth-Revised/dp/0375710477

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